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Singer-songwriter Taja Sevelle made a name for herself in the late ’80s with her first single, “Love Is Contagious,” but it wasn’t until she flew into Detroit to cut a record in 1998 that she realized her true calling. “When I was there, I became intimately acquainted with job loss and poverty, and the effects of jobs being shipped overseas,” she explains. “And I saw the devastating effects of urban blight.”

But Sevelle saw something else that gave her a spark of hope. “There were so many empty lots, and giant tracts of abandoned land,” she says. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we just plant food on this land so that people don’t go hungry?’” Starting with three gardens in Detroit (at Marygrove College, the Michigan State Fair Grounds, and on a lot owned by a faith-based organization), she launched Urban Farming with $5,000 of her own money and inspired homeowners to grow gardens of their own. “Gardening is powerful,” she says. “It’s a way to get rid of hunger and empower people, and you can see the difference growing in your own city, or in your own yard.”

Today, the Urban Farming Global Food Chain constitutes more than 59,000 community, residential, and partner gardens worldwide. Community gardens installed by Urban Farming are open to anyone needing food who wants to come pick from them—no work is required, and no judgment attached. 

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